Representatives of the new Borderland Initiative met with the Secretary of State for Scotland on Wednesday to promote the region on both sides of the border.
The Borderland Initiative brings together the five cross-border local authorities of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Borders Council, Carlisle City Council, Cumbria Council and Northumberland County Council to promote the economic growth and competitiveness of the area which straddles the border.
Representatives of all five councils met with the Rt Hon David Mundell MP, in Dumfries to discuss their shared vision and to give an update on developing formal proposals for the future.
Developing a ‘Borderlands Deal’ to attract investment into Dumfries and Galloway was at the heart of budget plans agreed by Dumfries and Galloway Council, with a pledge to spend an initial £150,000 over the next two years to develop a Borderlands Inclusive Growth Initiative. This is effectively a mechanism for attracting infrastructure investment from both the UK and Scottish Governments, making the meeting of the Minister and Local Authorities an important step.
A council spokesperson said: “Those at the meeting discussed the case for investment: addressing local challenges, such as low levels of employment; exploiting the regional assets by promoting sector opportunities, such as tourism, energy and the rural enterprises; contributing to regional policy and priorities by targeting specific opportunities and: leveraging commercial opportunity by creating and safeguarding jobs.
“By taking a Strategic Corridor approach, this will reflect the aspirations for cross regional collaboration based on the existing physical and infrastructure connections. Transport and connectivity will be at the heart of the proposals, linking the opportunities created, and informing future projects.
“Our vision includes promoting our Borderlands as an area for clean energy generation with investment in both digital and physical infrastructure to improve the accessibility of our regions. However, this will be worthless if we don’t have the workforce to go along with the new opportunities, which is why our investment includes the provision of smooth access into further and higher education on both sides of the border with a ‘border blind’ approach to skills and educational funding. This will help grow the working population with a focus on retaining and attracting young and working age people by increasing the number of high value jobs.”
Elaine Murray, Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council said “Building the local economy is our Council’s number one priority, which is why we are meeting with the Minister and Local Authorities from across the Borderlands. It is clear that the way forward is to develop a range of projects, some cutting across several councils, others in specific council areas.
Promoting economic growth and competitiveness for the area needs a combined approach, from a level playing field, so that we can all reap the rewards. We need to build on the strengths from all our regions and combine forces to increase our power and investment. The overall value of the 10-15 year plan could be £500m+ and it is in all our interests to combine to seize this opportunity for our future aspirations.”